The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union is talking tonight at
UAA at 7pm.
Wendy Williamson Auditorium
Free ParkingAnd the talk is free too.
The ACLU has been controversial, on many occasions because of the people they have defended - from the right of American Nazis to march in a Jewish neighborhood, Rush Limbaugh's right to keep his medical records private, to the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, as well as the rights of American Muslims.
They would argue that their ideology is the US Constitution and their belief that all Americans are equal before the law, no matter how unpopular their views.
One of the problems I see is that some people tend to think in more concrete terms and others in more abstract terms. Concrete thinkers see what they think is a despicable defendant, and can't quite comprehend that even that person is protected by the Constitution and the bill of rights.
But the ACLU would tell you that when there are 'despicable' people, well, that's why the Bill of Rights was written. They aren't saying these people shouldn't be convicted if they've committed a crime, but that they should get fair treatment from the authorities and get a fair trial. They shouldn't be judged because of their ideas, but because they violated a Constitutional law.
It's much easier to get support to violate the rights of 'despicable' defendants, but that sets a precedent for the next, less despicable, person, and slowly the breach in our rights gets bigger and bigger.
Just as TSA rules were justified to protect us from terrorists and have unraveled to the point that recently a 95 year-old woman in a wheel chair - was forced to take off her diaper before she could get through security. (TSA denied they required diaper removal.)
Whether you are a supporter of the ACLU or a critic, the opportunity to hear - and talk to (he'll be available to talk to at a reception afterward) - is a chance to match the media coverage against the real thing.
Here's what the ACLU website says about the director:
About Anthony D. Romero
Mr. Romero took the helm of the ACLU just four days before the September 11, 2001 attacks and led the national Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis, achieving court victories on the Patriot Act, uncovering thousands of pages of documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filing the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration's illegal NSA spying program.
Recently, he has led the fight to restore civil liberties, including pushing for accountability for torture committed under the Bush administration, fighting the practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial and challenging the excessive use of the state secrets privilege to block lawsuits over national security abuses.
The sixth executive director of the ACLU, and the first Latino and openly gay person to serve in that capacity, Romero has been named one of Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America, and is a frequent media commentator, including guesting on the Colbert Report. In 2007, Romero and co-author and NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston published In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror, a book that takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril.
The presentation's main sponsors are the Alaska branch of the ACLU and the UAA Justice Center. The Journalism and Public Communication Department and KYES - Channel 5 - are videotaping the talk. A 60 minute version will be aired on
KYES -Channel 5 - Saturday July 23 at 4pm AND Sunday, July 24 at 9am
For people outside of Anchorage, check the Journalism website - they are putting up a live online stream of the talk.